Parents take the bill for the government’s failure to fund the cost of our children’s education

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It is time to get back to Irish Schoolchildren’s Books.

Starting this week, primary and secondary school students will return to their classrooms for a new school year after the summer vacation.

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The schools are returning next monthCredit: Alamy
Parents struggle with the cost of school supplies

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Parents struggle with the cost of school suppliesCredit: Alamy
Labor Aodhan Ó'Riordain

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Labor Aodhan Ó’Riordain

But returning to school costs Irish families. AODHAN Ó RIORDAIN, the spokesman for vocational education, has asked the government to review its powers to make primary education truly free.

MP Ó Ríordain says many families will struggle to pay for school books, uniforms and voluntary contributions in the coming months.

In a letter in the Irish Sun on Sunday, the TD said there was a lack of a compassionate approach to education and a vision for a more just society.

Parents shouldn’t be forced to take the bill for the government’s failure to fund the real cost of our children’s education

Aodhan O’Riordain

IRELAND is an expensive country to raise a child – and families with children face a number of additional costs.

Despite the constitutional obligation to ensure free primary education, parents still overpay for their children to attend school.

It is grossly unfair to enable parents to put financial blocks in the way of their children’s education.

Many parents are really struggling with school costs, especially as their children progress through the school system and move on to secondary school.

Parents shouldn’t be forced to take the bill for the government’s failure to fund the real cost of our children’s education.

We need to ensure that every child gets a fair start by eliminating many of the costs associated with going to school.

Barnardos’ The Real Cost of School 2020 survey found that the average cost of the basic needs of an older toddler student is € 330; a fourth grader costs 365 euros and a first grader 735 euros.

This is a huge sum to expect from any family, and research shows that these numbers rise even more when a child completes secondary school.

Minister Foley’s lack of reform of education costs is truly alarming.

The government requires parents to pay for books, transportation, uniforms, pens and paper, as well as the so-called “voluntary” contributions to the schools.

These hidden costs and payments represent a major financial hurdle for many parents in need. When it comes to school costs in general, the cost of lunch for families is often overlooked.

LACK OF REFORM

Strong international evidence points to the success of school meals in improving children’s learning skills.

They are also essential for the most vulnerable children who come to school without breakfast and lunch.

The government should be budgetary in this regard – no child should be starved by the state.

There are other areas that need to be reformed by the minister.

Despite some improvements, the class sizes are still too big.

Research shows that young children from disadvantaged backgrounds would benefit most from a reduced class size.

The next census in 2022 will provide important demographic information for future resource planning in our education system – but we will reduce class sizes.

We also need to reduce DEIS class sizes and increase head cost grants for DEIS schools, as well as expand the provision of special needs workers in schools.

Last year I called on the government to stand up for families in need by giving all children access to free school books – which would cost the state around € 20 million.

BUDGET OPPORTUNITY

The upcoming budget is another opportunity for the government to show that it is committed to a fair start for all children and should also try to increase the allowance for clothes and shoes for back-to-school.

Due to Covid-19, we are already facing an educational crisis in which many students in disadvantaged communities have withdrawn and continued to fall behind due to the ongoing and prolonged school closings.

In February, Labor called for a € 100 million Catch Up for Children fund to make up for the loss of teaching time for children.

Despite the minister’s promises, such a project did not materialize.

August is an extremely stressful time of year for parents struggling with additional costs.

It is time the state realized this and tried to actually cut the cost of returning to school for families across the country.

Back to school conversations should be about returning to friends, educational goals for the year, and the child’s development – not money.

We need to ensure that every child in Ireland has a fair start in life when it comes to schooling.


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